Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

In Thailand, a ripe mango accompanied by steamed sticky rice enriched with coconut cream is a doubly festive dessert. The Thais adore mangoes, and when ripe ones become available during the warmest part of the year, everyone is giddy with mango-mania. Except for Northern Thailand, where it is pretty much a staple, sticky rice is reserved for special occasions, such as holidays or religious feasts.

The dessert is simplicity itself: a mango half, sliced or not, occupies a dessert plate next to a small mound of steamed sticky rice that has been seasoned with coconut cream, sugar and salt. As if the rice weren't rich enough already, it (and/or the mango) is napped with a sauce made from thickened, sweetened coconut cream. Sometimes there is a sprinkling of sesame seeds on the sauce, and in upscale restaurants it's usually served on a plate lined with a decoratively cut piece of banana leaf.

Simple though it may be, the dessert requires a little advance planning because sticky rice needs to be soaked for at least 12 hours before being steamed.

Any juicy, ripe fruit such as peeled peaches or nectarines, really sweet pineapple, or even a well-seasoned poached pear would make a perfect substitute for the mango, although that would make my Thai friends throw their hands up in dismay and mutter "falang" (foreigner).

Here are a few hints, followed by the recipe.

Mangoes: A large, egg-shaped Indian mango is too fibrous, even when ripe, for the dessert. Fortunately, flat-sided Mexican mangoes, which are almost identical to the Thai ones used for this dish, are widely available.

Sticky rice: Sometimes also called glutinous rice, it's easily found in any Asian grocery store. Jasmine rice is a good substitute if sticky rice is not available (see the note after the recipe).

Coconut cream: This isn't the sweetened coconut product used for making drinks. Thai coconut cream is the product of the first extraction from freshly grated coconut and warm water. After the thick coconut cream is skimmed off, the coconut is moistened again, resulting in coconut milk. Both are available in cans in Asian stores. When you make the dessert, leave the cans of coconut cream undisturbed in a cool place so that the rich coconut cream coagulates in the top of the can, allowing you to spoon it off and leave the watery part behind.

Salt: In Thailand, the rice is seasoned with as much as a teaspoon of salt for the amount below. I've reduced it to a pinch to accommodate American tastes.

Timing: Though you may leave the sticky rice soaking for longer than 12 hours (change the water occasionally if you do), once it's steamed you need to stir in the remaining ingredients and serve the rice within about 30 minutes, or it will become too firm. Count on serving the dessert no more than an hour after you begin to steam the rice.

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

(Kao Niaw Muun Mamuang Recipe)

This recipe calls for much less rice than is usually served in Thailand. The rice is rich and filling, and a small quantity is perfect, especially if you're serving it after a meal.

Makes 6 servings


1 can (13 ounces) Thai coconut cream

4 teaspoons rice flour or cornstarch

1/3 cup sugar

Large pinch of salt


1 cup white sticky rice, soaked in water for 12 hours (see note below)

1 can (about 13 ounces) Thai coconut cream

2/3 cup sugar

Large pinch salt


3 large Mexican mangoes, peeled, the flesh sliced away in one piece on either side of the pit

Untoasted sesame seeds, optional

One 8-inch square glass or metal baking pan for steaming the rice

1. Early in the day you intend to serve the dessert, make the sauce. Open the can of coconut cream and scrape the solidified part into a small non-reactive saucepan. Place over low heat. Pour the liquid remaining in the can into a bowl and whisk in the rice flour. When the coconut cream boils, stir a little into the rice flour mixture, then stir it into the coconut cream. Replace the pan on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and returns to a boil. Off heat, stir in the sugar and salt a little at a time. Scrape the sauce into a glass or stainless steel bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface. Cool and leave at room temperature until ready to serve the dessert.

2. About an hour before you are ready to serve the dessert, half fill a wok or other large pan with water and set a steamer basket on it. Drain the rice and pour it into the pan, spreading it in an even layer. Once the water is boiling, adjust the heat to a steady slow boil and place the pan in the basket and cover. Steam until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Taste a small forkful of the rice for tenderness and steam a little longer if necessary.

3. Turn the hot steamed rice into a mixing bowl. Open the second can of coconut cream and add the thick solidified part to the rice a little at a time, stirring it in. Gradually stir in the sugar, followed by the salt -- the rice will be somewhat liquid looking but will thicken as it cools. Set aside covered for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, while paring the mangoes.

4. To serve, arrange a mango half, cut side down, on one side of a dessert plate. Spoon a mound of the coconut rice next to it and nap the rice and part of the mango with the sauce. Sprinkle the rice with a couple of pinches of sesame seeds if desired.

Note: To substitute jasmine rice, place 1 cup rice in a small saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups water. Place on medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover the pan, and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for tenderness as in the end of Step 2, then continue with the recipe.

Nick Malgieri is the award-winning author of "Perfect Cakes," "A Baker's Tour: Nick Malgieri's Favorite Baking Recipes from Around the World," and "Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and More Made with Real Butter, Sugar, Flour, and Eggs, All Under 300 Calories Per Generous Serving"


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